Scotland’s council tax freeze is harming local public services and benefiting the wealthy the most, undermining the Scottish government’s assertion that the policy is a "vital lifeline to hard pressed Scots".
Scotland’s council tax freeze is harming local public services and benefiting the wealthy the most, undermining the Scottish government’s assertion that the policy is a “vital lifeline to hard pressed Scots”.
According to new research by Unison, based on a series of Freedom of Information Requests to Scottish Local Authorities, the more expensive Band H households are ‘saving’ on average £441 per year as those in the cheapest homes (Band A) ‘save’ £147 a year.
The study goes on to report that council tax savings for those on modest incomes had been “far outweighed” by big increases in rents and charges for a range of services. It cites rent rises in Edinburgh, for a three-bedroom council home from £61.57 per week to £85.55, equivalent to £1,237 a year.
It continues by highlighting the increasing cost of school meals rising from £1.60 to £2.10 in Argyll and Bute, an increase of £200 per year for a family with two children, and the introduction of £10 weekly charges for day centres for elderly and disabled people in some council areas.
Declaring the policy to be neither just nor fair, Dave Watson, head of bargaining and campaigns at Unison Scotland, said:
“It is clear the Council Tax freeze is costing public services – and those who rely on them most – very dearly indeed.
“We asked all the Scottish councils, using a Freedom of Information request, how their charges have changed since the Council Tax was ‘frozen’ in 2007. The responses reveal that people on modest incomes are having to pay far more for costs like their rent, school meals for their kids, and charges for care in daycentres for their vulnerable relatives – and still services are being cut back.
“Meanwhile those in the leafier suburbs benefit most from the unfair Council Tax freeze. It is not socially just or fair.”
Council tax has been frozen every year since the SNP came to power in 2007. Alex Salmond has previously declared the council freeze to be part of a “social contract” with the people of Scotland, whilst ministers at Holyrood have warned of financial consequences for local authorities not abiding by the policy.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government has responded:
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“The council tax freeze, which has been fully funded by the Scottish government, has helped ease financial pressure on all council tax-paying families in Scotland. Lower income households, who are liable for council tax, are estimated to see the greatest benefit as a proportion of their household income, with the average household set to benefit by around £1200 by the end of this parliament.”